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Nowhere to hide when it comes to confined space

Among the familiar refrains of the football manager is the expression that they are often asked to work with their hands tied behind their backs.

Danny Lennon received a two-match touchline ban following his recent barney with Derek Adams. Picture: SNS
Danny Lennon received a two-match touchline ban following his recent barney with Derek Adams. Picture: SNS

This is usually given as a nod to the financial restrictions which come with the office but it is also depicts one of the similarities which leading a side has with escapology. Both require that an individual step into a small box and then work a miracle.

The precise dimensions of the technical area will seem to vary depending on the stadium but they will always feel like a confined space to whichever manager comes to occupy them during a match. The small square will also become more constrictive once a team falls behind. It is why those who suffer from claustrophobia do not make effective managers, and why Houdini was once favourite for the Scotland job.

The size of a technical area will become a matter of perspective for Danny Lennon, since the St Mirren manager will be made to look down on the dugout from a seat much further away should he breach the Scottish Football Association's rules of conduct between now and December 31. He appeared at Hampden yesterday to receive his punishment following an altercation with Ross County counterpart Derek Adams during a league match last month which led to both coaches being sent to the stand.

They were both given suspended two-match touchline bans yesterday and Lennon had already insisted that he had not intended to appeal his case. "I'm guilty, take me away. I have stated that I was disappointed in my actions," he said.

He is not the only manager in Scottish football this season to throw words around in confined spaces. The St Mirren manager was at Tannadice on Wednesday night to study the match between St Johnstone and Dundee United - who Lennon's side face tomorrow afternoon - only to be engrossed in the heated exchange between Jackie McNamara and Tommy Wright on the sidelines. Referee Crawford Allan would send both managers to the stand behind them, although it might have been more appropriate to direct them to opposite corners of the ground.

"I watched it with great anticipation," said Lennon, wryly. "I was right above it and it was the same fourth official that we had in Dingwall [Iain Brines]. One week you'll find [fourth officials] who will help the referee and participate and other weeks they won't. But the key thing for me is that the fourth official controls the technical area. The referee has enough to deal with on the pitch without having to contend with us loonies.

"I wouldn't want their job but what I will say is that there has to at least be consistency. After witnessing the incident at Tannadice there appears to be the same punishment for everyone who gets involved and that's what I like to see. That gives you clarity and at least everybody knows where they stand."

Lennon's place will be at the touchline tomorrow as he tries to cajole a St Mirren side who are only a point above relegation play-off spot in the SPFL Premiership table. Any discomfort he feels tomorrow will be understood best by Alan Archibald, whose Partick Thistle side are at home to Hibernian. He is able to watch from the sidelines as a red card he collected for using foul and abusive language while playing for Thistle's under-20s will not manifest in a touchline ban.

"I'm banned for the under-20s, which is probably a bonus for them," said Archibald with a smile. "I haven't seen the referee's report yet but I just know that it is a playing ban. If I was a first-team player then I would have banned automatically for a game but I've not been on a team sheet for a while so I think I'm okay."

The manager must now try to orchestrate a similar escape from within his technical area.

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